In 1934, three-time Royal Melbourne Show champion saddle horse Garryowen died in a stable fire. His devoted owner, Violet Murrell tried to save him, but tragically died alongside him.
Violet’s grieving friends gathered at the St. Kilda Road Headquarters of the Victoria Police after her death, determined to establish a fitting memorial to honour her bravery.
The group included Mr W.A Jones, Garryowen’s former owner; Tom Coffey, instructor with the Victoria Mounted Police; his wife Eileen Coffey, an accomplished horsewoman who later won the Garryowen Trophy in 1937 and 1941; and Mr H.C.F Morant, a specialist photographer of horses and a freelance journalist, originally from England. Mr Morant sponsored the idea and a 'Garryowen Trophy Fund' was formed with H.C.F. Morant, Trustee. Horse lovers donated money and the general public bought the Garryowen Perpetual Trophy. The statue features a bronze horse, 30 centimetres tall, and stands on a marble base. The sculptor was Reinhold Kubart, born in Berlin, 1879. The inscription on the brass plate reads: Garryowen Trophy Best Equestrienne Turnout Royal Melbourne Show.
It was introduced at the 1934 Melbourne Centenary Show. And so, what we now know as Australia’s most prestigious equestrian event, was born.
The trophy is brought to the arena every Show on judging display, with the winner receiving a sash and a small replica of the Garryowen Trophy.
For the rest of the year, the Garryowen Trophy takes pride of place, amongst other trophies, in the foyer of the Melbourne Royal Centre.